A skin abscess, or “boil”, is a walled off collection of pus created by the body to fight off an infection, usually bacterial. Location of the boil on the body dictates what kind of bacteria is causing the infection, with staph and strep the most common types. Frequently, a boil will develop from a fluid filled structure such as a cyst, or a foreign body – such as a splinter – under the skin. Sometimes, the boil will develop due to a MRSA infection, which should be evaluated by a physician.
If a boil develops, the first thing to do is to apply warm compresses for 5 to 10 minutes every one to two hours while awake. An easy way to make a warm compress is to take a washcloth and get it wet, then wring it out and heat it up in the microwave. Hopefully the boil comes to a head and ruptures on its own. If so, gently squeeze out the pus. If there is a foreign body, it may come out with the expressed purulence (pus).
A visit to the physician is strongly recommended if the boil does not rupture on its own, is accompanied by fever, spreading redness and/or is painful. In these cases, the boil will usually be anesthetized and lanced under sterile conditions, drained and packed, and the patient started on the appropriate antibiotic(s).
If you are a member of North Idaho Direct Primary care and have experienced any of the above symptoms, contact our office at 208-772-5204 to set up an appointment. If you are not a member, and would like to find out more about our practice, you may click here for further reading. You may also subscribe to our monthly newsletter.